Directed By: Pablo Larraín

Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and John Hurt

"Don’t ever let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was Camelot.  There will be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.
-Jackie Kennedy

I've been pretty political in many of my recent reviews.  With all that's happening just a dozen or so miles away from me downtown that's tearing the moral fabric of these United States to shreds, I don't suspect that's going to change anytime soon.  The films that arrived this past weekend once again provide a perfect opportunity.  Miss Sloane, a film about taking on the NRA and the art of lobbying, speaks for itself.  The same can be said for Jackie, a film about the iconic former First Lady's final days in the White House after the assassination of her husband President John F. Kennedy.  What I will say in my brief political commentary upfront is that this generation did have its Camelot and didn't know it in President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.  When presented with a choice between someone who not quite as endearing in Secretary Clinton and — as Bill Maher would put it — a whiny little bitch in Donald J. Trump, we tragically chose the latter.  As our Camelot begins to fade into the sunset, the fact that our future First Lady doesn't actually want to move into the White House symbolically reinforces that our choices in elections can have dire consequences.

Sometime after the assassination of President Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), former First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) decides to tell her story through the words of journalist Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup). Inviting him to her home, he interviews her and learns of her life in the days after a national tragedy, one that was far much more personal in nature for the 34-year-old widow.  He learns of the chaotic circumstances of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (John Carroll Lynch) being sworn into office as her husband's cadaver sat in a hospital.  He learns of Jackie's back-and-forth with Robert F. Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) and the Secret Service on the details of her husband's sendoff.  He learns of her days with Social Secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and how she helped the First Lady to deliver the most memorable tour of the White House on record.  He even learns of her reliance on Father Richard McSorley (John Hurt) for counsel.  Theodore H. White gets an up close and personal account of history by a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

When taking on such a pivotal moment in history that has been documented over and over again, style becomes a vital tool in any filmmaker's arsenal.  Simply put, style is substance in these cases.  Based on the riveting historical biopic that is Jackie, director Pablo Larraín understands this lesson incredibly well.  With a measured, seductive soundtrack, Larraín invites moviegoers into the mysterious, alluring world of one of the most mythical First Ladies to have walked the halls of the White House.  With some incredible make-up work and costume design, Larraín makes this world the real deal, a cinematic ode to the elegance of the 1960s and the culture that the Kennedys embodied.  With a nonlinear narrative that intersperses various moments before, during, and after JFK's assassination, Larraín gives us a taste of the widowed First Lady's past, present, and immediate future in the mid-1960s.  All of this gives us a fascinating world of which we really can't get enough.  With a paltry 100-minute runtime, however, we might just have more than style as a reason to crave more of Larraín's Kennedy pageantry.

As awards season continues to push forward, it's crystal clear that one name stands tall in the Best Actress race, and that name is Natalie Portman.  In her elegant depiction of Jacqueline Kennedy, she steps into history and imbues a national icon with grace, poise, and dignity.  More importantly, however, she steps beyond this public persona to give us a despondent woman whose life has been upended by the most horrific circumstances.  At the same time, she gives us a woman who has lived in fame and somehow understands the importance of her public persona at this critical moment and the influence she has on how history will judge her late husband's presidency.  Nuanced, fragile, and flawed, this portrayal of Jackie Kennedy is the best performance Natalie Portman has given since Black Swan and a reminder that she is one of the premier actresses of our age.  It will likely be regarded as the best performance of the year.

With his latest feature Jackie, Pablo Larraín does indeed take us to Camelot, but the journey could have been extended a bit more.  This utterly intriguing, highly stylized biopic gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.